This exhibition, the collaborative work of three promising young artists from the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, continues the artistic interrogation of philosophical questions surrounding new media technology. This interrogation was begun with notable events such as Cybernetic Serendipity (Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1968) and Les Immatériaux (Centre Georges Pompidou, 1985). It is continued here on a much smaller scale but with no less acumen, and with more current topicality. The technologies to which the earlier landmark events sought to draw attention now suffuse our lives. This pervasiveness does not raise awareness, but on the contrary allows a withdrawal into the technical environmentality of unthinking everyday use. This exhibition draws new critical attention to these technologies, focused through the key terms “information” and “materiality”.
The exhibition is in open dialogue with one staged on the floor above, “Knife Edge Press: The Complete Works (so far)”. The unquestioned materiality of print of the latter finds itself interrogated in the former by way of mutations which take place within digital information transmission. Yet this dialogue is far from obvious; the works stand alone, they isolate themselves, they do not give themselves willingly and easily to the understanding of the visitor. They each create a world, which selects and represents the exterior world on an inner surface, sparingly, stripping away the inessential to expose the material conditions of the production, transmission, and storage of information. Taking our inspiration from the fractal geometry inspiring several of the works here, we might say that the works themselves are fractals – a geometric metaphor, indicating a self-similar pattern repeating itself at any scale: each work presents a perspective on the whole world, but on a smaller scale.
A sample of some of the questions that selected fractals pose: according to Lyotard, a. the conditions of industrial technology force our sensory capacities to adapt; and b. colour is matter in painting. These issues are explored through two works here, “Chroma 16, 777, 126” and “New White on White.” In the first, a changing colour field is projected onto the ceiling (beanbags invite easy viewing). The number indicates the distinct colours generable by the RGB colour wheel in 24-bit depth. Changing every 5 seconds, the display takes nearly 24 hours for a full cycle. Can our technics generate too many colours for the human eye to discern? Can we adapt? Can this adaptation produce in us new capacities for aesthetic appreciation? The second extends Malevitch: a white square on a white background, both composed of projected light, where the background splits the spectrum of the white light contained in the first. The invisible become visible. How much will technological mastery of perceptual experience enable the display of the conditions of such experience?
There are rich art-historical allusions in many of the works here, but they also hide, desiring anonymity. Like the extra content of the exhibition retrievable via a smart phone scan, they circulate in a virtual space, access optional. For those in the know, they provide an extra dimension to the experience, but their obscurity does not detract from the exhibition’s accessibility. To say so would be to beg the question (in the philosophical sense of assuming the conclusion from the outset), to insist on what the exhibition effectively questions, that our engagement with these new technologies and the artworks which draw attention to them is entirely mediated through the concept. The exhibition’s subtitle belies this, drawing attention to another kind of (unavoidable) mediation: that of materiality and sensation. Like the stated intention of Les Immatériaux, the works appeal to what is, it is proposed, a shared sensibility concerning our networked culture, a sensibility which accompanies the very focus on the concept, the medium of information. This exhibition is a critique of an ideology of informational transparency. This is what it means to draw attention to the materiality of information.